On the Couch with Narelle Benjamin

Narelle Benjamin oncWho is Narelle Benjamin?
Narelle Benjamin in an independent choreographer and dancer living in Sydney. Married with two children, Marlo and Eddie. Marlo is also a dancer, presently studying at the VCA in Melbourne and Eddie is a budding musician, taking after his father Huey.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I guess I am doing everything in life that I feel is fulfilling including my work, family and social life. So at present I don’t actually think I would do anything differently. I do wish I got to see my parents and sister more often than I do though. Time passes so quickly and they will not be here forever. That is something I would like to make more time for, for sure. Also, my brother is a yoga teacher in Thailand. I have been to visit him a couple of times, but it would be great to see him and visit more often also.

Who inspires you and why?
At the moment I am in Brussels observing Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a Belgium Moroccan choreographer as part of my Australia Council fellowship. It has as been amazing watching this process in Brussels, which feels very organic and at the same time so productive, before you know it something beautiful has been created. I have watched Sidi Larbi as a dancer, choreographer and director over the years, and have strongly connected with his movement vocabulary, as well as his multicultural exchanges, relationship to music and explorations exposing the human condition.

Larbi has the most incredible spacial awareness and musicality as a dancer and choreographer. He can just step into something and intuitively know where it’s heading… He really knows what he likes and wants, but works in a very democratic way as well, the dancers being very motivated and constantly playing and creating. It has been an absolute treat being in Brussels observing, as well as teaching Larbi and his dancers yoga class every morning which has been fantastic for me to be able to give something back.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Get rid of our current government…

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I would have to say Italy. One of my good friends when I was growing up was an Italian boy Romeo…. We lived across the road from each other, and I spent a lot of time at his family house. They made their own wine, and the smell of his mums cooking was always wafting through the house. My dad also cooked quite a lot of Italian food when I was growing up.

Then Italy was the first European country that I ever went to when I was 19… just by chance, I got a job in a cabaret show in a town called Spillenbergo. One of my first professional dancing jobs which I auditioned for in London.

Also my husband Huey, and myself went to Italy for our honeymoon. I love the Tuscan countryside and beautiful smaller towns like Sienna… and Florence would have to be my favorite city. The amazing galleries, history, Art, food, wine and coffee. What more could you ask for. Its time to go back!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
I would take them on the walk from Bronte to Bondi, along the cliffs by the ocean. Winter is probably the best time to do this walk, as there are not as many people around and the ocean can be so dramatic during winter. I love the fact that it is so different everyday depending on the sky, weather, and ocean swells… the rock landscapes are so rough, sculptural, and beautiful…. you are so close to the elements, really makes you feel alive. How lucky we are to live in Sydney/Australia…. Being away from home at the moment, it really makes me nostalgic just writing about it.

What are you currently reading?
I am reading 2 books at the moment. The Secret History of the World – Mark Booth, and something lighter, The Winner Stands Alone, which I bought at the airport … Paulo Coelho, the author of the Alchemist.

What are you currently listening to?
As I am in Brussels I am listening to the ABC radio on my phone app every morning, as I do yoga. (Keeping up with what is happening in Australia) … Then when I am teaching the company yoga class in the morning I have been playing the Necks, (my favorite band for a few years now.)

Larbi’s company are working on an Opera…. So its opera music all day long. The opera is called Shell Shock: A Requiem of War – a full-length opera that Larbi is making for La Monnaie (the national opera in Brussels), set to a score by Nicholas Lens with a libretto written by Nick Cave. It was conceptualized for the centenary of World War I. It will feature 10 dancers backed by a roughly 60-strong orchestra and a 40-strong choir.

Happiness is?
Family, home and friends!!!!!

What does the future hold for you?
I am doing what I am passionate about and enjoy at the moment, so I will continue on this path and let the future unfold.

Narelle Benjamin has danced with many Australian and international companies and choreographers, including, Australian Dance Theatre, Chunky Move, Bangarra Dance Theatre, The One Extra Company, Wendy Houston, Douglas Wright, Julie Anne Long, Meryl Tankard, Sue Healey, Tess de Quincy, Dean Walsh.

She has choreographed works for The One Extra Company, Theatre of Image, The Sydney Dance Company, The Australian Ballet, Figment, for solo performer Kate Dun, (Sydney Festival, Opera House 2008). Narelle’s first full- length work In Glass was performed at the Spring Dance festival 2010 and Dance Massive in Melbourne 2011. FORSEEN a double Bill with Francis Rings in 2011. In Glass won an Australian Dance Award in 2011 for Best Independent Dance. Kristina Chan and Paul White both, winning Helpmann awards for their performances in the piece.

Narelle received the Hephzibah Tintner fellowship in 2006. Her films have won awards both here in Australia as well as overseas. Narelle started a new work with two Indian performers, dancer Anandivalli and singer Parvathy Baul, at Campbelltown Arts Center, which was performed in 2013. Narelle received The Australia Council for the Arts Dance Fellowship for 2014/15.

Narelle’s new work Hiding In Plain Sight will premiere at Performance Space, Carriage Works: 22 – 30 August, with performers Kristina Chan and Sara Black as part of the Dance Festival SCORE. For more information, visit: www.performancespace.com.au for details.

Image: Narelle Benjamin